LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Top sponsors of corruption-plagued FIFA urged the global football body on Tuesday to enact sweeping reforms with independent oversight, saying only a “cultural change” could give the organization a credible future.
In a joint open letter addressed to FIFA, sponsors AB InBev, adidas, The Coca-Cola Company, McDonald’s and Visa called on FIFA’s executive committee to adopt reforms aimed at improving transparency and rooting out corruption when it meets in Zurich on Wednesday.
“We know that you, the Executive Committee members, will soon be considering a list of reforms aimed at strengthening FIFA’s governance,” the letter read. “We urge you to embrace positive changes and also recognize that this is just one step toward creating a credible future for FIFA.
“Transparency, accountability, respect for human rights, integrity, leadership and gender equality are crucial to the future of FIFA. Reforms can set the proper framework for these characteristics, but a cultural change is also needed.
“The culture change has to begin within FIFA and filter through to the Confederations and FIFA’s Football Associations.”
The sponsors said while FIFA’s Reform Committee had made “positive” strides, “we still believe any reforms should be subject to independent oversight.”
“It has also become clear to us that such independent oversight needs to run long-term through the implementation and evolution of the reform process,” the letter said. “We encourage you to become champions of this independent oversight as it will only enhance FIFA’s credibility.”
A FIFA spokeswoman said sponsors would play an “important role in the reform process.”
“We share their passion for the game and are committed to working with them to embrace positive changes so that we can fulfill our mission of promoting football around the world,” she added.
The sponsors’ letter comes as FIFA reels from the worst crisis in its history, with president Sepp Blatter suspended and under criminal investigation in Switzerland, while Michel Platini, once seen as his likely successor, is also suspended and facing a life ban from football.
The executive committee is to discuss reforms such as age and term limits for FIFA presidents, how to vet powerful continental confederation chiefs on the executive and make the world body more transparent.
A special FIFA congress on February 26 will choose a new president as well as vote on the reforms drawn up by Francois Carrard, former director general of the International Olympic Committee.
Football’s world body is also still reeling from U.S. charges against 14 football officials, including Costa Rica’s Eduardo Li, and marketing executives over more than $150 million in bribes allegedly paid for marketing and TV deals.